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THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF BETH-HAVEN CEMETERY

By Wilma Reeves Jones

 

        The story begins with a little girl named Rosetta Sechrist.  She was the daughter of Julius and Rhoda Sechrist.  She was born June 14, 1878, and died in 1887.

        At her death, her father went to neighbor and friend, Mason Gregory Jones (known as Mace Jones) and said "I need a place to bury my little girl as there is not a cemetery close by."  Mr. Jones said, "I have the land and if you will help me pick out a place, I will give the land and we will start a new cemetery."

        The plot was chosen and little Rosetta was buried. True to his word Mace Jones deeded 3 acres of land for the cemetery and also a school.  The deed was made December 3, 1897, and put on record January 7, 1898.  You can find the deed in Volume 57, Page 37, at the Erath County Courthouse, Stephenville, Texas.

        A short time later, Mr. Jones gave another plot of land adjoining the school land, for a church.  Because of a family error the deed was never put on record.

        When the church was organized it was given the name Bethel.  The school and cemetery were called Jones School and burying ground as the deed said.  

        As the years went by, some how, some way, the school acquired a nick-name "Greasy Corner".  There are many versions on how the name got started. One is that a school boy got mad because his biscuit and bacon sandwich was too fat so he threw it in the corner causing a greasy spot - hence the name "Greasy Corner." The name stuck and for years to come not only the school but also the cemetery and church were called "Greasy Corner."

        My mother-in-law, Mrs. Mollie Jones hated the name with a passion. She would not allow her children to use it in her presence. She said it showed disrespect to the memory of their grandfather who gave the land.  I do not know what kind of care the cemetery received during those years.

        My first memories were the wire fence that separated the school and church lots, and the wide plank gate that was fastened to a large oak tree. Also, the plank steps that went up and over the wire fence and down on the other side.  These gates were both on the west side the cemetery.  To me that showed community interest.

        My mother, Cora Brown Reeves, who was born July 23, 1883, received her education at the Jones school as did her 4 brothers and 5 sisters.

        In 1915 or 1916, the school was consolidated with another one room, one teacher school called May-Flower. The new school was built a mile or a mile and a half northwest on land given by Mr. Sam Bays. The new school was called Bays School.

        The May-Flower kids made fun of those old Greasy Corner kids, and it took most of the first year before they made friends. When I was all of 13 years old, I had my very first date with one of those kids and 6 years later I married him.

        A year or so after the school was moved, the church was moved also. It was moved close to the school on the Bays land, but it kept its original name, Bethel.

        During all those years the cemetery was sadly neglected.  Sometimes my grandmother, Mary Caroline Brown, along with Rhoda Sechrist and Irene Bays (Mrs. Jim Bays) would get together and set a date and get all the community to come for a cemetery working. This hit and miss method went on for years. Several years later the people saw the need of a set date each year.  My father, Mack Reeves and Mollie Jones together chose the date, Saturday before Mother's Day in May.

        We would bring a basket lunch and have "dinner on the ground'' and spend most of the day working.  As interest grew, we soon set 2 more workings (mornings only) in June and September.  During this time, B. O. (Dick) Jones' personal interest grew and he began keeping the cemetery cared for all time.

        Finally, years later, there was no work for the people but we continued to meet each year on Saturday before Mother's Day.

        During this time, B. O. became real concerned about so many unworked graves and realized his mother was the only living person who could put a name to each grave. So with her help he made a map with just family names as most were small children.  He then made little concrete markers for each grave. Mrs. Dudley Fincannon helped him make the small markers for her family's graves. Now all the graves are marked.

        In 1927 or 1928, Mason Overstreet Jones (better known as Street Jones) repaired the wire fence adding new cedar posts as needed. He also made a new gate down on the east side next to the main road.  Over the gate he put up a new wooden sign "Bethel Cemetery” after the church in an effort to get away from the name.  Gradually the name began to change.

        By this time the lower side of the cemetery was cleared of brush and after we got a tractor, B. O. kept it mowed with a field mower which improved the looks very much. During this time the graves were kept mounded up and worked with a hoe and rake between the graves.

        In 1948, the little Bethel Church on the Bays Hill disbanded, and a year or so later the building was moved back and put in the cemetery lot. After the church was moved back a new composition roof was put on. Later the roof was covered with tin. In 1981 steel siding was put on the outside of the building at a cost of $700.00. The building is used for all our meetings and a good place to spread our dinner.

        Some time after 1955, Reecie Jones led a drive to raise money to put a chain link fence around the cemetery. In less than a year the money was raised and the fence was put up at a cost of $860.00 including a new steel sign at the gate. The sign was ''Bethel Cemetery."

        By this time, B. O. was taking care of the cemetery all year round without any pay, but a free-will offering was taken each year.  As we were organized and called “The Bethel Cemetery Association'' with some money in the bank, a power lawn mower, wheelbarrow, and a power tiller were purchased at a cost of $260.00 to make B. O.'s work easier. For 3 or 4 years, using the tiller, we (B. O. and I) had rows and rows of blooming flowers from spring to frost. We soon learned when it rained the land would wash and when it was dry the wind would erode, so the graves were flattened and we let it all go back to grass and kept it mowed.

        One year in either 1965 or 1966, the Association paid B. O. $100.00 for his work. That was the only money he has ever taken for his work.

        In later years, my brothers, J. B. and Marshall Reeves, each having riding lawn mowers, began to help with the mowing. Later a weed-eater was purchased and much later spray was used on the fence rows.

        Years before this we began to plan for the future care of the cemetery. We set up a permanent care fund.  We put our money in CDs and added the free-will offering to it each year.  As B. O. was Treasurer, he handled all the money with the understanding that the principal never be used or spent.  Only the interest could be used for the care of the cemetery.

        When the amount reached almost $2,000.00, we began to look for a more safe and enduring way to invest the money.  We were already well organized.  B. O. was Treasurer and I was Secretary, and there were 7 Trustees. They were: Mrs. Earl Morrow, Mr. J. T. Hicks, Mr. Reecie Jones, Miss Faye Brown, Mr. Marvin Jones, Mr. Marshal Reeves and B. O. Jones.

        In May, 1965, we (the Association) began to plan how to organize a non-profit corporation for the purpose of setting up a perpetual care fund for the cemetery.

         Faye Brown, daughter of George S. and Myrtis Brown and granddaughter of Jim M. and Mary C. Brown, who worked in a law office in Austin, Texas, was given the authority to have the legal papers drawn up and registered with the proper authorities at the State Capitol. She also drafted the Constitution and By- Laws for the organization.  It took over a year and included a name change because another Bethel Cemetery was already registered at the capitol.

        At a meeting in May, 1966, the name was changed to Beth-Haven, and later that same May, the Certification of Incorporation was signed by John Hill, Secretary of State.

        B. O. and I spent months and months writing and answering letters to prove or show that this was a non-profit corporation.  Finally, we were assured that the cemetery and our monies were not taxable.

        As the years went by, B. O., J. B. and Marshall were keeping the cemetery looking nice year after year. Even I helped keep the briars cut off the fence.

        By 1977, the Association began talking about putting the cemetery money into a trust fund.  We were looking not only for a safe place to invest the money, but a way that the care of the cemetery would be looked after. Some way that the interest from our permanent care fund would always be used to keep the cemetery and someone to oversee that the work was done. We needed someone with the authority to use the interest to pay for the care of the cemetery when we were no longer around to see after it.

        So, after years of study and discussion, we voted to put the money in a trust fund.  In 1981, after all legal papers were completed $11,463.00 was transferred to the trust department of the Stephenville Bank & Trust.  At the present time (October, 1990) they are charging $120.00 a year to take care of it for us.  B. O. is still in charge of the checking account.  When the interest from the trust fund is more than is needed in the checking account, B. O. has it added to the trust fund. With that and the free-will offering each year, the fund continues to grow.  At the present time there is $26,000.00 in the trust fund.

        It has been one hundred and three years since little Rosetta Sechrist was buried.  At the present time there are over one hundred and thirty graves in the cemetery.

        I know I have left out much about the cemetery, but I have tried to put down some the more important things that I remember.